Nepal: Turmoil and uncertainty have gripped the country after derecognition of ruling Party by SC

K S Tomar

K S Tomar

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Pro-China Nepal Prime Minister Khadak Prasad Oli has only himself to blame for the political and administrative crisis he landed the Himalayan Kingdom into in his attempt to cling onto power at any cost.

Any reprieve he may have earned, following Supreme Court holding illegal the merger of the two communist parties that gave power to Oli in the first place, is purely temporary as processes kick in that could eventually lead to a different government or fresh elections.

ਨੇਪਾਲ
K P Oli

In his naked quest for power, Oli alienated the old-time ally and neighbour India. His fall from grace in total after the recent supreme court verdict derecognising the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The Supreme Court had also held the merger of two communists’ parties as illegal, which could give a temporary reprieve for Oli.

Already Prime Minister Oli suffered a legal reverse after the apex court set aside his decision to dissolve the parliament, and paving the way for the formation of an alternative government.

Supreme Court Verdict Deals A Blow To Ruling Party And Government

While delivering a judgment on a three-year-old case, a division bench of Supreme court comprising of Justice Kumar Regmi and justice, Bom Kumar Shrestha said that the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) registered with the Election Commission is unlawful and illegal.

nepal
Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda

The bench issued a directive to the Election Commission and quashed its decision to recognize the Nepal Communist Party which was outcome of merger of outfit of KP Sharma Oli (CPN-UML) and Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s faction (Maoist’s centre) thereby reinstating both parties to their pre-merger position.

The bench also issued an order of mandamus to the Election Commission to invite both the parties if they want to merge again as per existing laws.

As per brief of this case, Dandapani Poudel, an advocate, on December 7, 2018 had filed a writ petition on behalf of Rishiram Kattel challenging the decision of Election Commission to recognize and register the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) under the names of KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal.

The petitioner argued that the Election Commission had recognized the new party in name of Oli and Dahal despite the fact that a political party with an identical name i.e., Communist party of Nepal (CPN)has already been registered with it under Rishi Kattle’s name.

The CPN-UML, led by Oli, and Maoist Centre headed by Dahal, in October 2017, prior to general elections, announced an electoral alliance. The two communist parties swept the polls held in November-December and Oli became prime minister with the support of the Maoist Centre in February 2018. At this juncture, both parties had announced a merger and formed the Nepal Communist Party in May 2018.

Election Commission To Register New Party In Different Name If Both Factions Agree For Fresh Merger

But when they approached the Election Commission for the party registration, the poll body initially refused to register it saying that a party with the similar name has been already registered, under Kattel’s name. The two parties–the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre–were in power and commanded a nearly two-thirds majority.

After the initial hesitation, they again approached the Election Commission–this time by adding CPN within brackets, making their party’s name as NEAP Communist Party (NCP). The Election Commission then agreed to register it in June 2018.

Supreme Court has termed merger of CPN-UML headed by Oli and Communists Centre led by Pushap Kumar Dahal, ‘Prachanda’ on March 24, 2018, thereby naming it Nepal Communist Party (NCP), as illegal and asked both factions to revert to original position.

nepal

Apex court has directed election commission to De-recognize Communist Party Nepal. The court said name, which belonged to petitioner who had contended that he had already registered his party as communist party Nepal on his name, hence merger of two factions was unconstitutional.

Now Oli and Prachanda will have to approach election to give resolution of fresh merger with a new name but such proposition is ruled out as they have already parted ways, landing Nepal into a phase of uncertainty and instability.

Possible Scenarios To Resolve The Tangle

Analysts point out that as per pre-May, 2018 situation when CPM-UML headed by Oli and Maoists Centre led by Prachanda had merged their factions and named it as NEPAL Communist Party (NCP), Oli’s faction had won 121 and Prachanda bagged 53 seats in lower house which meant prime minister stays as Leader of the House as his faction has got majority.

Second, if Oli can save his government by proving majority on the floor of the house in a vote of confidence through manipulation.

A third option could be to identify a third person as a consensus candidate, as both the factions will not accept either Prachanda or Oli as Prime Minister.

Another option, at this juncture could be that China makes another attempt to pressurize the factional leaders to elect a new leader from amongst themselves who can lead the government. Or they can appoint a senior leader as Chairman of new organization which must be registered with election commission.

nepal
Madhav Kumar Nepal

At one stage, it appeared that Madhav Nepal, a former PM could have been an acceptable candidate who was currently supporting ‘Prachanda’ but originally belonged to the Oli faction. He had fought the elections as CPN-UML candidate.

But in a swift development, Oli has removed supporters of former prime minister, Madhav Nepal and accommodated 23 leaders from rival faction in standing committee which has been rejected by Nepal’s group. This has destroyed any chances of reconciliation between the two leaders.

Oli at present is exploring possibilities with Nepali Congress, for its support, then with 63 members it can help the Prime Minister to survive as he needs only fifteen members for the magic figure of 135. He has 121 members of his own in CPN-UML party.

In this way, the support of either Nepali Congress, 63 MPs or Rashtriya Janta Party with 32 MPs (excluding two suspended ones) will enable him cobble majority in the house of 275. Oli can also easily woo Janta Samajvadi Party with ministerial berths and other allurements to prove his majority in parliament.

On the contrary, experts opine that Prachanda faction has got 53 MPs hence he will need support of both Nepali Congress and Janta Samajvadi Party to achieve a figure of 135 in parliament to form government which is possible as both factions are vehemently opposed to Oli.

As per indications, Nepali Congress would like to adopt a ‘wait and watch’ policy rather than fish in the troubled waters and it may agree to support either of the factions, which agrees to permit it to lead the government. This would suit India also.

In view of old association starting from struggle for restoration of democracy in Himalayan Kingdom, Nepali Congress is considered closer to India, which has been seriously hit due to anti postures adopted by communists’ governments of Nepal.

Nepal China
Oli with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Oli had adopted totally pro-China tilt and smashed ties between Nepal and India, though Prachanda as PM did not go that far.

Oli had been responsible for redrawing the map which showed Indian territories in Nepal and India had rejected this misadventure. Oli government also opposed construction of road to Kailash Mansarover, which was inaugurated by Union Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh last year.

As per Nepali media, Janta Samajvadi Party (Mahdeshis), with its 32 MPs, may support a party which will accept its demands relating to welfare of its citizens of plain areas of Nepal bordering Bihar. Mahdeshis have suffered during different regimes, and especially injustice was done to them during the drafting of the Constitution.

But, if Oli refuses to step down and Prachanda fails to muster majority to form new government, then general elections will be thrust on the people prior ahead of the five-year term that concludes in 2023.

Chances Of Prachanda, Nepali Congress And Janta Samajvadi Party Cobbling Together Seem To Be Bright

In view of the fast-paced developments, Prachanda has withdrawn his seven ministers from Oli’s government and decided to take head on to defeat present dispensation with the help of Nepali Congress and Janta Samajvadi Party.

Oli has also retaliated against former Prime Minister, Madhav Nepal’s 23 supporters and substituted them with his loyalists.

As per indications, Janta Samajvadi Party finds ideologically nearer to Nepali Congress hence both parties have got clarity to remove Oli and tie up with Prachanda faction. Janata Samajvadi Party leaders have reportedly held dialogue with Nepali congress and plan to jointly push for common formula.

Nepal rally

They have got their genuine demands of withdrawing cases against their leaders and cadres which were registered against them during ‘MEDHHES UPRISING’ during 2015-16 besides releasing their jailed lawmaker, Resham Chaudhary.

The party strongly feels the urgency of amendments in the present constitution which is heavily loaded against Medeshis. However, the scenario could take U turn if desperate and frustrated Oli offers the premiership to the Samajvadi Party in a bid to stop a coalition led by Prachanda.

Keeping in view limited options, Prachanda may agree to have alliance with Nepali Congress as junior partner and seek support of Rashtriya Janta Party after conceding its demands about ‘Mahdeshis welfare’ to see back of Oli.

PM Oli was earlier expelled by majority members of standing committee of party as he blamed senior leaders for hatching conspiracy to remove him with the help of foreign power obviously hinting towards Indian government.

nepalNepali Congress may not accept Oli as PM because it had been working for his ouster and levelled serious allegations against his government in the parliament.

In this turmoil, it will be an open showdown in parliament and dispensation having majority will form new government otherwise elections will be only option and people will decide the fate of political parties to end current volatile situation in Nepal.

Experts feel that Oli and President, Bidya Bhandari, can be blamed for pushing the country into a turmoil.

It was autocratic decision of Oli to recommend the dissolution of parliament fearing defeat and President accepted it without exercising her powers to find out alternative which is a provision in the Constitution.

The dissolution ought to have been the last resort but Bhandari preferred to oblige Oli and approved the recommendations of the cabinet to dissolve parliament and hold fresh polls. Apex court verdict of reinstating parliament was a big blow to Bhandari also who cannot be above constitution.

Oli’s Defeat In Parliament Will Give An Opportunity To President Bhandari To Explore Chances Of Alternate Government

Constitutional experts in Nepal say that if Oli fails in floor test in parliament then role of president will be crucial.

nepal
President Bidya Bhandari

In this situation, she will ask contenders to submit the list of support of majority of MPs which will be verified prior to inviting to form the government.

As per Article 85 of constitution “the term of the House shall be of five years ‘unless dissolved earlier pursuant to this Constitution’. Article 76(7) is the only provision under the constitution that envisages dissolution of the House. Under Article 76, the president has to exhaust all efforts to form the government, either by the leader of the party commanding majority.”

Constitutional specialists, legal experts, scholars etc in Kathmandu opine that President Bidya Bhandari did not exhaust the available possibility to form alternate government and straightway dissolved the house which was illegal and Supreme Court had upheld such opinion.

Anti Defection Law In Nepal Makes It Difficult To Switch The Sides

Experts believe that it will not be possible for Oli or Prachanda to cobble the required strength to engineer defections hence support of either Nepali Congress or Rashtriya Janta Party or both is obligatory to form new government.

As per Nepal’s Anti Defection Act, 2054 (1997), parameters of defection depend upon several criteria viz. it may be deemed to have been occurred if a member commits any of the following acts and the concerned party may conclude that such member has defected from the party:

(a) Resigns in writing from the membership of the party, (b) Joins any other party, (c) Constitutes another party upon including him/herself (d) Casts his/her vote or remains neutral or absents from voting in the Constituent Assembly against the whip issued by the leader or whip of his/her own Constituent Assembly Party.

Defection will be permissible only if at least 40 percent members of Executive Committee in a party split and constitute a new party or merge in to an existing party, or If at least 40 percent members of the Constituent Assembly Party split and constitute a new party or merge in to an existing party.

Analysts feel that it would be in the best interests of India if Nepali Congress attains supremacy in the formation of the new government and that would be a big blow to China.

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K S Tomar

K S Tomar

The writer, a senior political analyst, is a former Editor of the Hindustan Times' Rajasthan edition and has spent nearly four decades in journalism, including a six year stint in Nepal where he covered Sino-India-Nepal complex relationship and had a ringside seat to the Himalayan Kingdom's transition into democracy.

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